McGuinness seeking 'shot in the arm' for Donegal
THE various U-21 provincial championships have thrown up a few surprises this year -- not least in Ulster, where Donegal and Cavan emerged from the pack to contest tonight's decider in Enniskillen (8.0).
Both teams have reasonable form coming into the final with Donegal beating Derry in the quarter-final despite playing over half the match with 14 men, while they beat Armagh in the first round. Cavan beat Down by 12 points and scraped past Monaghan to book their spot in the final.
The bookmakers can't separate the sides and Donegal manager Jim McGuinness was keen to play down the significance of their win over an Oak Leaf side that reached the All-Ireland minor final three years ago.
"Minor is a long time ago. That Armagh team we beat in the first round were in an Ulster final last year and they would probably have come into the game with more form than Derry did. It was important for us to get the victory and we're very glad to be where we are now. We feel we've worked hard but we're under no illusions about the test that lies ahead.
"We played Cavan about six weeks ago in Cavan and we were on the receiving end of a five- or six-point loss but we're looking forward to it."
McGuinness will have to plan without Peter McGee, who is serving a suspension, but expects to have a full hand to pick from including seniors, Michael Murphy and Leo McLoone.
Ironically, Donegal's last title at this level came in 1995 when they beat a Cavan side managed by Martin McHugh and tonight they go in search of title number seven.
"Whoever wins, it will be a massive shot in the arm to the county," said McGuinness, who guided Naomh Conaill to the Donegal county final last year. "It'd be a good lift for Donegal and I know it'd be the same for Cavan. They travelled in very big numbers for the semi-final so there is a feeling in the county that this is an exciting group of footballers for them.
"When we took over at the start of the year we looked for players that were committed. I'd have no reservations about our squad, they are good lads. There are no passengers there. We feel we've done well up to now and hopefully our plans will come to fruition on the night."